Wednesday, May 30, 2012
So, you might suspect a lot has happened in two weeks, not really. I navigated, with some strife, from Arizona to the Andersons' home, Casa de Luna, where I posted up and spent the last two weeks mingling with trail angels and hikers alike. I cooked taco salad, consumed ample beers, caused mayhem, and assumed the role of "Social Chair." I squeezed in about 4 showers, and rotated my two changes of clothes almost every day, but essentially, I just lived the life I love. When the hardest decision you have to make is, "Should I walk .3 miles to the store today or can it wait until tomorrow?"...it's a pretty awesome existence.
Beyond the food and fantastically crappy reality television I enjoyed, the best part of it all was the people. On the biggest evening, we had roughly 75 hikers staying the night, but over the last two weeks I think there was between 300 and 400 hikers that showed their faces around the area. I got to meet some super awesome hikers, and heard all sorts of awesome stories. Old faces that I recognized from last year appeared, some of whom were hiking this year, such as No Amp and Speedbump Sr. The wonderful Liz came in for a few days to help shuttle hikers around and make sure that I ate healthy. (Thanks LP!) Current year hikers that I met at Kickoff and while doing trail magic with Unload trickled in a few at a time. I even met two gals that previously worked for Adventure Treks and were taking the summer off to thru-hike. And the Wolverines took over Memorial Day weekend with Jackass, Molasses, Steve Climber, Bounce Box, Upchuck, Scarecrow, and Bloodbank. Both new and old faces consumed my days, and there was nothing more satisfying than just sitting around and feeling the constant buzz of energy.
This community is the strongest I have ever belonged to and while I might call Park City "home" these days, I will always feel at home around these people. Any time spent here makes me forget the fact that I hate walking! I hate the walking part, but if that's the cost of admission, it's a steal.
And now, having arrived at the airport, I can starting looking forward and see the great things that are in my future. I successfully got a position this summer with Adventure Treks!!! I will be on the California Challenge II instructor team as a first year instructor, joining 5 other instructors, 24 kids, and tackle northern California this summer. My trip will include backpacking in the Trinity Alps on the PCT, a summit attempt on Mt. Shasta, rafting, climbing, mt. biking, and backpacking on the Lost Coast. I'm stoked! I am currently bouncing back to Utah for the next two weeks, hanging out with my nanny kids, then redirecting to Bend, OR, for a wilderness first responder course, then immediately jumping to Portland to start training for the summer! I ended up turning down working for Canyons for the summer to pursue this opportunity, but I think that this is the best choice for me be making for myself. Again, I'm a little bummed that I won't be spending my summer in Park City, since I know that it has amazing things to do, but then again, there's always fall...
Busy, busy, busy...but I couldn't be more excited for this adventure to continue. When I left for Arizona, this was not "the plan." I don't think I could have ever planned for it to be this incredible.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Back at the Phoenix greyhound. Returning to Cali. Hopefully I don't miss my bus this time!
Away from the heat and fires, into the mayhem and community of the PCT. I won't deny that it has been a bit of a bummer to have to walk away from the AZT but with alot of other pieces of my life falling into place, it's not a tragic event. And I feel at ease with my choice knowing that I'm not walking away because I miss home or can't take the pressures of hiking, but that Mother Nature isn't on board with this trip and is sending back to Cali to help make the 2012 PCT hikers successful in their adventures.
During my interview for this dream summer job, a question came up of, "how do you define community?" A tricky answer to put into words, but immediately my mind went straight to the PCT community. So dedicated and committed to helping others succeed, at financial, physical, and emotional costs. I have said time and time again, that I actually hate hiking, but I keep coming back for the community. Based on common interest, not demographics, the hiking community is the largest group of friends I can imagine. I think you would have a hard time drawing a 2663 mile line anywhere in the world and find anything close to what the PCT offers. So away I go to do my part to help, as so many did last year for me!
And in a fun side note...
I was checking around the website for the company Adventure Treks that I might get to work for this summer and found some cool things.
2 instructors previously worked at Camp Jewell with me.
1 instructor hiked the PCT last year. 2 are hiking this year, and 1 hiked in 2010.
2 have hiked the AT.
4 attended UNH in the outdoor education department (my original major.)
4 live/work in Park City.
I'd say that's a pretty awesome lineup!
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Thankfully, I was close to a major highway, and after a few hours in the shade of the bridge, I walked up the road to the intersection and stuck out a thumb. After only 20 minutes or so, a car passed, then pulled a U-turn and came back to get me. They were headed my direction and felt sorry to see a "little girl alone hitch-hiking" and felt impelled to pick me up. Works for me! It was a mother and her two grown children, returning from visiting grandma's gave on Mother's Day. After a quick trip up the road, I was checked into a motel with AC and chugging a large bottle of Gatorade. The hotel manager was shocked to see a hiker come in this late, and proceeded to show me the forecast for the next 4 days. Daily highs? 104, 104, 108, 108. And to boot, a wildfire was burning just north of here, and threatening to burn across the trail if it hadn't already. Hmm. Plan B?
Well, it just so happened that another hiker was in town, and after we discussed options, I decided the risk was too great, and I was throwing in the towel. He opted to keep going. I hope he stays safe! Things quickly started to fall into place. I was able to contact the company that was interested in interviewing me for summer position working for Adventure Treks, and was able to start that process. I also got a hold of Casa de Luna and Jackass, and decided that instead of jumping north on the AZT, I would return to California and do my part to help the Wolverines and Trail Angels. Back to the PCT I go!
I am saying goodbye to the AZT after completing 1/3 of the trail, and going to try and earn my trail angel wings. Hopefully I can help Mama T and Papa Joe and make the class of 2011 proud. I will be helping out until Memorial Day weekend, and then I will head back to Park City and return back home the the family I nanny for. I'm excited to see the little rascals again and get some fun times in before they take off for the summer. Hopefully I too will be headed out for the summer and be leading a sweet trip in Cali! None of this was the plan a month ago, but it doesn't sound too bad!?
Now for a few pictures....
And in parting...the wisdom of the sign on my motel room wall...
"How we spend our days, is how we spend our life."
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Boo. So this return to hiking wasn't as smooth as desired. I was unable to get a ride to the trailhead from the end of the bus route, so I had to tack nine more miles onto my day. 5 of them flat, 4 of them a grueling climb on pavement. I ended up not even making it to the trailhead before dark and had to camp on the side of the road in a wind tunnel apparently. Sadly sleep was not easily found, and I had a restless night being thrashed by huge gusts of wind. The moon was pretty though!
I tried to rally a better attitude for the morning, and almost did for the first few miles, until the climbing started. 6000 feet of climbing. With a pack filled with water. About halfway up, I caught a glance of Tucson, and saw the storm clouds building. The valley floor was quickly shrouded with the smog-y haze so indicative of rain. Exposed and around 6000 feet with another 2000 to climb, I cranked some tunes and started to haul ass. Thankfully I made it over the peak and dropped into some marvelous pines that comforted me amidst the cracks thunder ripping around me. Having just made a wrong turn and taken an extra half a mile, I was feeling fairly low, and no amount of Mumford & Sons could help me now. Exhausted and feeling defeated, I decided to rest and consult maps, secretly hoping I was further along than I knew I was. Just as I sat there realizing I was further back than I hoped, I started to feel the clouds spiting on me. Small harmless drops that indicate more to come. It was still early in the day, but I could see a nice fire ring and campsite right next to me and figured I would "check it out." Well it was splendid. Perfect camping among elderly pines, and a little rock cave complete with fire pit and enough overhang to shelter me from rain! In likely the fastest pace I moved all day, I had a tent pitched and dry wood harvested. I built a lovely "one flick of the bic" fire and watched the skies open up and let loose. My little tent performed immaculately, as expected, and after an early dinner, I tucked in with my book and got the best 12 hours of sleep I had had in a long time.
The miles the next morning were much better, whether from a change in sleep, attitude, or weather. I rolled into Summerhaven to one of the friendliest post offices, got my resupply box, and chowed down on a corn beef hash-wich and maple bread pudding. (shout out to Sawmill Run Restaurant!) Spirits are high again in a way only a full belly and thoughts of downhill miles can do.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
I'm back! No, not really, but I'm getting closer! As I crossed the Colorado River, I waved farewell to California, and accepted my hot and lonely fate hiking the Arizona Trail. But not before a chance meeting with a good friend from southern Utah that happened to be passing thru Phoenix.
Now I'm not the most likely person to search for hidden signals and meanings in the day to day life, but I have to wonder if the cosmos have kept me away from hiking for a reason. As soon as I hit Cali, there were endless reasons to stay and play, and up and down the coast were offers to stick around and adventure. I even had a suggestion to go hiking on the Wonderland Trail in British Columbia. Then Cinco de Mayo snuck up, giving me a less than necessary excuse to relax by the pool sipping frilly drinks with my sister and her friends. And the tacos. I probably would have stayed in Cali just for those amazing mouth fiestas. Then a friend I haven't seen in months just "happens" to be in Phoenix to guide a trip with some teens? Heck, I almost joined them as they headed up to Flagstaff!
And then, the latest hint...while sitting at the Greyhound station I somehow managed to ignore that my bus loaded and left without me. Oops! No tears or sweat lost over that one though, when you don't have anywhere to be, it doesn't matter when you get there!
This trip has been a good test for me to see of I can just let go. Let go of the planning, the stress. I have my trusty pack filled with the essentials, shoes on my feet, and a carefree attitude typically reserved for young children and dogs.
I've had a great time, and the chance to relax. There's no pressure to follow anyone else's schedule, and to be honest, there's not even pressure to hike the Arizona Trail at this point. I'm going back because I want to, I want to see what's next, I want to challenge myself and see if I can handle the heat and loneliness. But should I want to leave, I'll leave. Last summer, I think that I talked a young guy off the Pacific Crest Trail because he didn't know what he was doing out there, but he was there to prove it to all the doubters on his life. If you're doing something to prove it to others and not yourself, you give them a huge portion of your success. It's not driven internally, and the ownership is shared, but why should you share your amazing accomplishments with someone that didn't believe or support you on the first place? I hope one day he makes it back to the PCT, but I hope he makes it back for himself, not for me, or anyone else.
Thankfully, I have come to a point in my life where I have surrounded myself with the most supportive and non-judgmental people I can find. (And if they are judgmental they have at least kept mum!) As a result, I don't think failure will every be an option for me. Not that I won't fail at things, (you should see me ice skate!) but I have learned to be gentle with myself and know that everyone around me will treat me the same. To me at least, failure is the feeling that happens when I have let someone down. And sometimes the most important person to not let down is yourself. So should I hike to Utah, fricken sweet. Should I bail out on the next 5 miles, it's still good, I've gotten exactly what I wanted out of this trail.
Oh...And the people I've met...amazing.
Friday, May 4, 2012
So, this Arizona trail adventure was meant to be about hiking, but lately it has been about everything but walking. In a quick run through, I flew into San Diego last Thursday and jumped straight into PCT mode. Tons of amazing people, food, and the stories flowed as wildly as the beer. I met some cool current hikers, and got to enjoy the long missed company of some fantastic people. I was having so much fun that I ended up voluntarily missing my flight back to Tucson, and have been bumming around So Cal ever since. I have spent ample time with Little Bug, cruising the sights and attractions of San Diego, hooked up about 30 PCT hikers with their first dose of trail magic just north of Warner Springs with fellow 2011er Unload, and goofed off lighting fire crackers on the beach with 4 fantastic friends. But I have done very little walking...
The time is approaching that I will need to abandon this life of fun and recklessness and return to walking, but really I hit the Arizona Trail to relax and unwind, and So Cal has hit that spot for me. I am still committed to the physical and mental challenge of the trail, but for right now, letting loose of the planning and stress was exactly what I needed. In the past few days I have been able to do exactly what feels right. The feeling to return to the trail has been growing and soon I intend to place one foot in front of the other and get back out there.
Even if only for a couple days, allowing myself to be in vacation-mode has helped me get back into a good mindset and isn't that what this trip was all about?